BA100: 3. “The Face”

100 Years Of British Airways: One of the greatest airline advertisements of all time, “The Face” from 1989.

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"The Face" British Airways, 1989
“The Face” British Airways, 1989

This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.

Note many articles have been updated since they were first published.

When the idea for what is possibly the greatest airline advertisement of all time was presented by Saatchi & Saatchi to BA, it is existed solely as a rough scribble on a single sheet of paper.

BA had asked Saatchi to prepare a new blockbuster advertising campaign. Saatchi had presented two ideas, which by its own admission were fairly unremarkable, to an unimpressed BA.

They then pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Out came a crumpled piece of paper bearing a sketch with the fairly unappealing sight of a disconnected smiling mouth, an eye, and a nose and a scribbled face.

But BA bought into the idea. And so “The Face” was born.

The advert was directed by Hugh Hudson and filmed in Utah using local school children with a budget of £1m. Saatchi & Saatchi called on the choreographer of the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony to direct the movement of the participants.

To the sound of “Aria On Air” by Malcolm Mclaren, the voice-over by Tom Conti, says “Every year the world’s favourite airline brings 24 million people together.”

Save for the roar of Concorde at the end of the advert, images and sounds of aircraft are entirely absent. The advert was seen by 600 million people in 70 countries.

You can continue reading our 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA in numerical order, by theme or by decade.

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4 thoughts on “BA100: 3. “The Face””

  1. My Aunt was the Choreographer! Judy Lee Chabola. She passed away in 1999 from cancer. Wonderful memories every time I stumble across the projects she was involved with, truly an amazing person and talent!

    1. Hi. I wirk in an ad agency in Trinidad & Tobago and we’re trying to get on to any friend of family member of Judy Lee Chabola about a project she worked on here in the late 90s. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Apologies for the typos.

    Hi. I work in an ad agency in Trinidad & Tobago and we’re trying to get on to any friend or family member of Judy Lee Chabola about a project she worked on here in the late 90s. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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